Barack Obama: "I gave an
impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police department"
Washington, July 25, 2009 – US President Barack Obama has told reporters
he should not have described the arrest of a black Harvard professor as
Mr. Obama has faced criticism for wading into the controversy during a
televised news conference on Wednesday.
Professor Gates was apprehended at his own home after a witness saw him
apparently trying to force his way in.
He was held for disorderly conduct after allegedly accusing the
arresting officer, Sgt James Crowley, of racism.
Making a surprise appearance at the daily White House press briefing,
Mr. Obama said he should have chosen his words more carefully at his
Wednesday news conference.
"Because this has been ratcheting up and I obviously helped to
contribute ratcheting it up, I wanted to make clear in my choice of
words I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning
the Cambridge Police Department or Sgt Crowley specifically," Mr Obama
"I could have calibrated those words differently," he added.
Mr Obama also revealed that he had spoken to Sgt Crowley on the
telephone, and described him as an "outstanding police officer and a
He said he continued to believe that Professor Gates's arrest was "an
overreaction", but that "Professor Gates probably overreacted as well".
On Wednesday, Mr Obama had said: "The Cambridge police acted stupidly in
arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their
And he put the arrest on the context of "the long history in this
country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law
Critics seized on his comments, saying the president should not be
getting involved in individual cases, especially if he was not in full
possession of the facts.
Officers were called to Prof Gates's house after a woman reported seeing
two black males - the professor and his driver - trying to force entry.
Prof Gates's lawyer later said the professor had just returned from a
trip overseas and, upon arriving at the property with a driver, found
his front door jammed and had to force it open.
Although the exact facts of the incident are disputed, Prof Gates was
asked to provide the officer with identification. He was then asked to
step outside his house and was arrested.
According to police, Prof Gates shouted at the officer and accused him
of racial bias.
Source: BBC, July 24, 2009